NEW research shows that metastatic cancers adapt their metabolism to the tissue in which they grow. Metastatic cancer is significantly more difficult to treat and is one of the leading causes of mortality in patients with cancer. This breakthrough allows for a better understanding of metastatic cancer and could help in the search of new, effective treatments.
Metabolism can be compared to an internal engine, which allows for cells to grow and receive energy. Since the aim of cancer treatment is to stop the progress of cancer cells, this is an important target. A new study analysed how metabolism works in secondary tumours (cancer cells that have spread to new organs via metastases). This provided insights into how these adapt to their environment. The results showed that cancer cells adapt to the new tissue that surrounds them in order to keep growing. They are, therefore, different to the original tumours, which needs to be considered when trying to treat them.
The study focused on triple-negative breast cancer, but researchers said the results can be applied to all metastatic cancers. Study lead Fariba Roshanzamir, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, said that this data provides insights into what treatments should target. Roshanzamir stated: “Selecting metabolic inhibitors that specifically target the metastases in the organs to which the tumour has spread, rather than treating them as their original tumours, is of great importance to be able to find good strategies for treatments in the future.” By shutting down the metabolism, the tumour would stop working. The authors hope that this data will lead to a new view on metastases, their properties, and behaviour, and that this will help in the development of more individualised drugs.